With budgets being frozen and cut, it can be hard to find the money to host a traditional author visit. Here are six tips to connect with authors – virtually and in person – for little to no money.

1. Piggyback: When you book an author, you don’t just have speaker fees. You also need to pay for travel, lodging, and other expenses. One way to cut costs is to piggy back on book tours. When Jeff Kinney came to our local Border’s, one of our elementary librarians contacted his publisher who put her in touch with his agent. She was able’  to schedule a school visit between his other engagements. While this visit was not exactly cheap, it was cheaper than it might have been.

2. Buy Local: Another way to avoid travel fees is to book a local author. YALSA has a wiki which lists YA authors by state. Local authors may be more willing to work with your budget constraints since it is a way for them to support their community.

3. Skype: Author Kate Messner wrote about Skype visits with authors recently for SLJ. As she points out, many authors will do a Skype visit for free as long as the participants have read the book.

4. Let Teens Ask the Questions: At my library, I have started a blog to provide a forum for teens to interview authors. Another way to facilitate interviews is via podcasts. Check out the ones by the librarians at the Mount Kisco Public Library for good examples. How do you get interview subjects? Ask them. Most author websites list their contact information. For the AuthorView blog, so far I’ve made two interview requests. One said he was too busy. Another, Sarah Ockler, gladly agreed, and you can read her interview online now.

5. Promote Author Sites: Individual authors offer opportunities for readers to connect to them via their websites. The most involved site I know of is Nerdfighters, a community started by John Green and his brother Hank. Community members chat, share pictures and videos, and blog. The content ranges far beyond Green’s work, but does have a literary focus. Other authors, such as Maureen Johnson, Melissa Walker, and Justine Larbalestier have lively blogs which encourage comments and participation from teens through contests, advice columns and more. Link to these blogs and communities on your library site.

6. Take Advantage of Author Group Offers: Authors are joining together in groups to reach out to readers, including teachers and librarians. The Class of 2K9 has a program called Authors2Go. They plan on offering the program through the end of this school year. You’ll get a signed copy of the book, plus the opportunity to interact with an author online or in person. The Class of 2K10 plans to offer a similar program in the coming year.

There are six tips to get you started. What would you add to the list?

One Thought on “Dollars and Sense #2: Connecting with Authors on the Cheap

  1. This is a very good list. I have another addition to the list. I have started calling local authors and asking them if they can donate some time to come to speak to our students about books they have written and have met with great success. That is followed up by thank you notes written by students for the visit and mailed to the author. I also write a small blurb to be put in the local paper.

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